Chapter 20 The Dreamers
Friday was here, the day Bob Lollar was coming home for a 2-week visit. The team had started out the season with all wins and was higher than a kite. The Tavys were back together, Gloria and I were getting along well, to say the least. We were all beginning to wonder about the Becky/Bolton connection.
The Lollars, including Becky, were so looking forward to seeing Bob again. Hoping to find out just exactly WHAT his plans are for the near future. Bob was being flown in by Flight School friend, Jake Murphy, who was originally from Boston. He was commandeering a military jet for some needed air time and was putting it to good use bringing Bob home to Hartford.
Bob and Jake drove down in a rental car so Jake could get back to Bradley Airport and Boston later that afternoon after lunch. Mary and Gus kept going to the front door what seemed like every five minutes since 10 AM. It was now 11:45 and the rented Lincoln pulled in the driveway. They ran to the car as the screen storm door banged against the frame.
"Bobby, Bobby,” shouted Mary with Gus trailing right behind her. She threw her arms around his neck as he barely made it out to the passenger seat and seemed to squeeze the life out of him.
"Mom, Mom," said Bob laughing. "I'm going to be home for two weeks...if you let me breathe, that is."
Mary started laughing as tear streamed down her face as she caressed Bob's cheeks with her thin little fingers. God, I thought, does she love that boy or what? Gus moved in giving Bob a firm pat on the back, then squeezing the top-back of his shoulder blades. "It's good to have you home son," said Gus. "We sure miss you around here."
I moved slowly down to the car while this as a going on. "You must be Bill," said Bob as he extended his hand and gave me a firm welcome. "It's good to finally meet you," Bob added. "I'd like for you all to meet Jake Murphy."
Jake moved around the car removing Bob's luggage and placing part of it on the driveway. "How ya doin," said Jake to everyone, and no one in particular. "Guess you happy to see this lug of a Pilot, or what," said Jake? That was the understatement of the year.
"Let's go inside," said Mary. "Lunch is already and we can talk as we eat. Bill and Gus need to get to the ball park soon, anyway," she added, taking charge.
We moved into the house and kitchen began positioning ourselves around the table. It immediately became apparent the for the next two weeks this table was going to be about 3 feet too short with all the company about to descend upon the Lollar house hold to experience the "great return" of Bob Lollar, star athlete/officer pilot. As if the events of this last week had not been enough, already.
Bolton and Becky came into the kitchen with Becky giving her brother a big hug. "Oh, Bob, it is so good to have you home,” said Becky warmly. "Seems like I haven't seen you in years, not just the 9 months it has been," she added.
"Nice to see you to, Sis," said Bob right back. "It is so good to be home again."
We all sat down and began filling the room with small talk, Gus next to Bob, constantly rubbing his shoulder, his way of showing the deep affection he had for his son. You could sense the love and how much he truly missed Bob being gone.
Mary finished putting items for lunch on the table as we began to eat. "Bob, would you say Grace for us," asked Mary?
"Sure Mom," said Bob. "Dear Lord, thank you for bringing us all together again today. Bless this food and all who partake of it. Give us strength to face our futures and the opportunities ahead. Help us care for one another and remember how important family and friends are to all of us. We ask for you blessing in the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, AMEN," concluded Bob.
Wow, I thought to myself. I never heard any young person pray like that with such conviction and sincerity. I knew then that Bob Lollar was a complicated person, not just some Bible-thumping loony. He looked at me from across the table and gave me a broad, warm grin. I was thinking of him like he as an older brother who had always totally mesmerized a younger sibling. This WAS going to be very interesting, very much so.
Bob filled in everyone as to his plans over lunch. "I've already enrolled at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago for September and am definitely headed for a career in the Ministry," stated Bob.
"Mom and Dad," continued Bob, "I know this may be of some surprise to you, but I never felt more positive about anything in my life. The Lord seems to be telling that he wants me to work with kids somehow, those in trouble at school and with the law. I don't know. I'm not sure what the Master Plan is, but it just feels so right," he concluded.
"Son, were proud of you," said Mary. "You have always succeeded at what you did and were totally committed to it all. If you feel that God has called you to do this, you HAVE to do it. You can always count on our support. The Family will always be here. Remember that."
"That's right, Son," said Gus. "We'll be here if you need us. We'll miss you, but you can be sure we'll be out to "Cub-Land", won't we Bill," said Gus as he was trying to secure me as his Chicago Tour Guide well in advance. That Tour Guide was definitely ME.
"No problem," I chirped in. "Couldn't have you Connecticut Crackers getting lost in the Windy City, now could I. I might even take you to see Wrigley Field, the most beautiful ball park God ever built." Bob smiled at my weak attempt at religious humor.
Geez, I thought, maybe God doesn't even like baseball. Maybe HE thinks it is just another stupid, time wasting, man-made human experience. Maybe HE has Bob doing what is important and gave us this game to keep us somewhat preoccupied so as not to do more damage to ourselves than we already have. What do I know? Such philosophical thought is well beyond me at this point.
"I suppose you think there is Ivy on the walls of heaven as well?" asked Bob with a big grin. "Maybe God prefers the Beautiful Facade of Monarch Stadium. They’ve have certainly won more World Series than the Cubs, I believe. I might be lead to think that maybe God as spent MORE time in Monarch Stadium than in Wrigley Field, or at the very least, sent a lot of Angels to look out for the Yanks. God knows they have had some characters playing for them who need some Devine Intervention."
Don't ask me if God cares who really wins the games, though," said Bob. "I am really curious about the issue of "free will" and trying to understand just how much the great theological scholars believe God manipulates our live for his purposes. I'm not convinced he is a manipulative God. The devil, on the other hand, is quite another story," added Bob with great conviction.
The room had grown sullen and quite and the conversation took this serious turn. Bob could tell we were all being taken aback by his remarks.
"I'm sorry," said Bob sheepishly as he looked around the table at everyone. "I didn't mean to go off the deep end. It is just that the intellectual side to this issue is as interesting as the spiritual side, to me anyway, I won't bore you any more," he added.
"It's O.K., Son," said Gus, breaking the ice for all of us. "Don't mind us; it will just take us some time to get used to having Preacher in the house, that's all. We could probably all use it."
Gus was right about that statement I thought. No truer words were ever spoken.
"O.K.,” said Bob. "What does everyone have planned for today? What would you like for me to do?"
The room began to start buzzing again with chatter. Back to normal, at last.
Plans were made for Bob and Jake to come to the 5 O’clock game tonight, but Jake had to be in the air by 9PM, meaning he might get to see 5 or 6 innings before he left for Hartford and Boston. Bob insisted he take Jake back to Bradley. Jake tried to talk him out of it get him to stay with the family, but Bob insisted that after all Jake had done to get Bob home it was the least he could do. Bob, as usual, won the argument.
"Bill, let's you and I go for a walk," announced Bob. "I want to go down and see old man Bolling’s at the Sports Locker and say Hi. What do you say?"
"Sure, that’s fine with me," I reply. "I hear he is a great guy, older that some of the dirt around here."
"Mom, Dad, Bill and I will be back in about an hour, O.K., asked Bob seeking approval more that permission?
"Go ahead Son,” replied Gus. "Take your time. George will be glad to see you, I know."
Bob and I head out as Jake moves into a lawn chair in the front yard with a glass of Mary's lemonade and the New York Times. "I'll guard the fort while you’re gone Bob, if I can stay awake that long," added Jake.
"No problem," said Bob. "You've got to be exhausted after this past week you put in."
As we began our walk Bob told me about Jake. "He has flown over 60 hours this past week with training and some classified air time," said Bob. I don’t know what it was about only that my "Secret" security clearance was not enough to let me know what Jake's "Top Secret" missions had been.
"Jake is as close to a "Top Gun" as I will ever meet," added Bob. "It must be somewhat exciting for Jake, but Jake had made it clear that he couldn't and wouldn't start a family until THIS part of his career was over. Jake didn't want a wife and his kids to go fatherless and husband-less some day. He had seen enough of that. Jake is a real Class act. Most people would be more selfish than that."
We moved done the driveway and hit the sidewalk. Bob continued the conversation.
"I talked to Mom last night," began Bob. "I wanted to talk to you about Gloria now that Mom has told me the two of you are getting along pretty well, getting close and all."
I couldn't tell right away if this conversation was headed for trouble or not. Was he going to be mad at me for moving in on HIS territory and HIS girl? Or, did he not care? I was feeling somewhat uneasy and very apprehensive.
Bob continued. "I want you to know that I am very happy you and Gloria are together. I hope it works out for you."
Thank God, I thought to myself, trying not to let my relief be noticeable. Dodged a potential Scud Missile there I knew.
"I care for Gloria very much," added Bob "but, it just never seemed to be in the cards for us. I don't know why. I never really understood how we just could never make that final push or commitment to each other. I know it is probably my fault. I have never been real good at showing real affection in a man/woman relationship sort of way. I know I care, it is just that the physical part is hard for me."
You could tell Bob was very serious and sincere in what he said.
"I began to guess that maybe that is what God really intended for me, anyway," stated Bob matter-of-factly. "The scripture states that he knows us in the womb. Seems unbelievable doesn't it. That someone could know you before you are even born, take a breath, open you eyes. That seems far-fetched to a lot of people.
Bob continues, "The real truth is that this country has truly lost it spiritual and moral conscience, convictions, and most all its' leadership. That is the legacy we must all live with," concluded Bob with much sadness in his voice. "The truth is," added Bob, "that there are a lot of Church-Goers in this country, but a very low percentage of real Christians. How sad is that?"
You could tell how much he was hurt by America’s lack of spirituality and how deeply moved he was to talk about it and do something about it, if he could. This guy was certainly wiser that his years would indicate. Bob was a most interesting person. Being a friend to him would be a challenge for sure.
Here was a guy truly wanting to tackle the issues of today and I'm more worried about going 2 for 5 tonight's game. Boy, did I have some priorities to rearrange in my life. It would just have to be later.
For what ever reasons Bob Lollar had, he seemed to have a handle on where be believed his life direction was supposed to be. Whether he was feeling the true "Devine Inspiration" that seems to be the motivating force in one's choosing the ministry as a career, or more as a way of life, only Bob can know for sure. There was no doubt he was committed.
I felt happy for him in that he was now at peace with himself about it and seemed to put his recruiting nightmare behind him. He seemed to have made that conscience decision to turn a negative into a positive.
"Hey, Bill, " shot Bob, "what about you? You are still some kind of a mystery man to most of us. Tell me about your family and how you made your way to the Nutmeg state."
"Not too much to tell," I responded. Grew up in a medium sized town west of Chicago called Hastings Mills, Illinois. The town was mostly a blue collar community with the Chicago, Burlington, and Quincy Railroad having a terminal and a Round House there for heavy maintenance work. The town had about 50,000 people in, but now it has more than doubled that number. It now has the same serious problems any large city in the country has," I added.
“My Dad suffered from the complications of Polio when I was seven. He spent the last year at home in a rocking-bed since there was no more they could do with a prolonged hospital stay. He had spent a long time in an Iron Lung to help him breathe," I began. "I remember spending hours and hours at the hospital when I was four or five just visiting my Dad. I know I couldn't understand what had happened or what was wrong with my Dad. I remember sitting at the head of his Iron Lung just stroking his hair and listening to music with him, kind of like a D.J. would play records on the radio. Dad was a big Jazz fan. I have kept a number of his of 78's he had in his collection. Many of the area radio stations who heard of my Dad being one of the first totally paralyzed polio victims would send him free copies of albums they got from record labels. Those, a black and white Admiral 17" T.V. and some Friday night Pinochle games were his only sources of entertainment."
"I don't ever remember my Dad being depressed or overly sad about his situation," I added. "I remember as a kid trying to convince him that he "could move" if he would just "try a little harder". He would always try for me because he knew it was impossible for a young boy to understand anything like this. He seemed to be a very positive person. He spent time in Korea during the war in the Army. Was working in a gas station and worked learning to repair television when he was stricken."
"It must have been difficult for your Mom," offered Bob, "a young family now with no real Father. How did your Mom do it?"
"She couldn't," I responded. "Mom never finished High School so her income/job opportunities were severely limited. She never earned more than a dollar an hour and I remember one job she had washing dishes at a small manufacturing company around the corner from our house in which she earned fifty-cents an hour. Her parents moved in with us and took care of all of the financial obligations while Mom just became a full time house wife again.
Vyra and Joe helped us keep a small, manufacturing business that did fairly well and kept us all very comfortable. Many other family members worked in the business as well, so the business was important to a lot of us related to the Alcorn family. Without the business things would have been quite different for me and my two sisters, that’s for sure."
"My senior year in high school my dad, mom, and my two sisters were killed by a drunk driver. One of those times life seems to make no sense…no sense at all. Even though I had some bonus offers to play baseball I had to stay home and do my best to keep the family business going. There were many middle class families counting on our company. I was lucky, though, in that I was given a "second chance" this time with the Monarchs as they spotted me at one of their open try-out camps. I was afraid I was never going to get to see if I had what it took to play in "the Show". I am not about to blow THIS opportunity," I concluded with great conviction.
"I'm sure you'll do it, Bill," said Bob with a convincing smile. "You seem like the kind of person who is committed and gets the job done. You'll make it. I'm sure of that. Dad thinks you're the real thing. He has never been wrong about a ball player that I know of. He spots the flakes right away. I don't know what he "sees", but he does have a sense about talent. But, in your case, not many people give up "their" dream and make the potential sacrifice you did for your family. I'm impressed. People like you deserve a "second chance".
Bob continued. "I just wanted to tell you that I am fine with you and Gloria. I am real happy for you and want only for Gloria to be happy, have a family, and have her dreams fulfilled by some guy who will love her and treat her right. You could be that guy, if you wanted to...if she wants you to. I just hope it works out for you two. Besides, it then gets me off the hook for some to the dumber stuff I did and the smarter stuff I failed to do," added Bob with a big grin and smile that broke in to a laugh. God knows I will always feel a little bit remorseful about our relationship. But, that is history."
We had made our way to Bolling’s Sporting Good and stopped out front as Bob just gazed a the store-front for a moment. he remarked at how, as a small boy, how big the store seemed to him and how many hours he had spent choosing balls, wooden baseball bats, and trying on ever Rawlings, Wilson, McGregor, and Spaulding glove at least a hundred times. They almost got worn out just sitting on the shelf he thought. What a charmed childhood he realized he had.
"I've made plans to go out to Moody Bible next week," said Bob. "My previous post Chaplain, Father Malone, has made arrangements and sent a letter of recommendation on my behalf. It is not going to be easy to get accepted since I am going about it in a rather unorthodox manner, but a positive result is all that ultimately matters to me. I hope that the people making the decisions have an open mind and an open heart."